Celebrating the upcoming holiday season with family and friends is one of the most anticipated times of the year. The holidays imply enjoying family get-togethers with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. It also means slowing down your busy life and reconnecting with people you love over sumptuous dinners and glasses of good cheer. But for parents in the middle of a divorce, the holidays are not always a happy time. In fact, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are often nothing but times of stress, uncertainty, and familiar thoughts of old resentments.

Being in the middle of a divorce doesn’t have to be so stressful during the holidays.  This bears repeating:  It does not have to be stressful.  Preparing ahead of time with the other parent to make transitions as smooth as possible for the children’s sake can help keep things consistent and drama-free. Divorcing parents focusing solely on the well-being of the children instead of themselves will eventually feel those resentments diminishing.

Holiday Planning Tips for Divorcing Couples

1. Maintain the Status Quo

The stability of children’s lives, keeping it all easy and predictable for them over the holidays is probably the most important thing divorced or divorcing parents can do. Some children or teenagers might be able to conceal anxiety about change and you might not realize your child is feeling uneasy about having their normal schedule disrupted. Pay close attention to how your child is behaving emotionally and don’t hesitate to ask them if they are concerned about anything.

2. Consider This Holiday as a “Trial Run” for Future Holidays

Divorcing parents should try and follow similar plans and patterns the following year to avoid the chaos and unnecessary drama. Although things can and will change from now until then, it is still useful to keep as close as possible to a familiar schedule. If your children enjoy the upcoming holidays, they will likely remember and feel comfortable with the same type of schedule next year.

3. Be Aware of Religious and Cultural Considerations

If certain days of December are more important to one parent because of their cultural or religious views, the other parent should do his or her best in honoring those days.  Divorcing parents with different cultural backgrounds should start thinking about how they can divide their time with the kids weeks before the holidays begin. Additionally, don’t neglect the emotional needs of the children when scheduling transitional times for them. Ask and listen to them about how they feel about things in general.

4. “Why Do You Have to Get a Divorce?”

If this is the first holiday a divorcing couple is going through, it is likely a child will ask this question. One of the many essential aspects of co-parenting involves both parents sitting down together with their children and discussing why the divorce is happening. It is important to emphasize that the divorce has nothing to do with them, it isn’t their fault and that you both love them unconditionally.  The best way to consistently show your children they are loved is by keeping communication lines open between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Children are, for the most part, adaptable and resilient when confronted with confusing situations and unforeseen changes. Unexpected disruptions affecting their schedule–especially changes accompanied by conflict and last-minute stress–should and can be avoided by planning ahead of time for the holidays.

If you are considering a divorce, contact Kim Mediation and Law Center for a consultation.